written by:
photos by:
January 23, 2011
Originally published in Rethink Recycling

The tale of the Emeco's 111 Navy chair is that of a phoenix rising. In 1944, the Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company began producing the original 1006 Navy chair. But despite supplying these chairs—the first to be made from 80 percent recycled aluminum—for use in virtually every U.S. Navy application that required sitting, the company was on the brink of collapse by the late 1990's. While on his way to shutter Emeco, owner Gregg Buchbinder had a startling revelation upon reviewing records: Architects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster had long been ordering chairs directly from the factory. Inspired, Buchbinder revived Emeco with a series of striking new designs, including those from Gerhy and Foster.

111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

Photo by 
1 / 13
111 Navy Chair recycled materials
Eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.
Photo by 
2 / 13
111 Navy Chair process float sink tank
A worker operates the float-sink tank. Heavier, nonrecyclable materials sink to the bottom, leaving on the water's surface only rPET, which then becomes white rinse flake.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Grind and Sort
3 / 13
Emeco factory recycling conveyor belt
Bottles are sorted on a conveyor belt.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Grind and Sort
4 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair recycling plant
A view of the heavy machinery inside the New United Resource Recovery Corporation recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
5 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair Rinse Flake
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is roasted to remove any volatile organic content.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
6 / 13
Emeco factory 111 Navy Chair rinse flakes
The white rinse flake.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
7 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair rPET mixture
Each Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
8 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair robotic arm
After the rPET mixture is heated and transformed via injection molding into a chair, a robotic arm removes it from the specially designed mold.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
9 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair removed from mold
The 111 Navy chairs are exact replicas of the beloved aluminum originals, down to the faux weld points on the backside.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
10 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair design process
A worker smoothes any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
11 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair process
One of the final steps is to install the H-Brace and feet, both fabricated on another mold.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
12 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair
Each chair is stamped on the underside to read, "Help your bottle become something extraordinary again."
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
13 / 13
111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

In 2006, Emeco partnered with the Coca-Cola Company to recreate the iconic chair using rPET (in essence, recycled plastic bottles). Judging by its reception at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, the 111 Navy chair—so named for the number of plastic bottled required to fabricate each seat—has an extremely bright future ahead.

Grind and Sort
The story of the 111 Navy Chair starts in the New United Resource Recovery Corporation (NURRC) recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.

111 Navy Chair recycled materials
Eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.

The bales, which have traveled from municipalities east of the Mississippi River, are loaded onto conveyor belts for sorting. Virtually everything involved in the PET reclamation process at NURRC—including the water used to wash the bottles—is recycled. Non-PET materials, such as polypropylene caps, are sold to other facilities. ; by-products are reused, such as ethylene glycol, then used in automobile antifreeze.
111 Navy Chair process float sink tank
A worker operates the float-sink tank. Heavier, nonrecyclable materials sink to the bottom, leaving on the water's surface only rPET, which then becomes white rinse flake.

Barring any snafus in the sorting process—bowling balls and small engines have been spotted on the conveyor belt—the bottles are sorted, ground, sent through dry and wet washes (which transforms them into rinse flake), and then sorted by color.

The UnPET Process

Emeco 111 Navy Chair Rinse Flake
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is roasted to remove any volatile organic content.
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is "roasted" to remove any volitive organic content, rendering it usable for food grade packaging (much of the rPET is used to make new bottles and other products). "Think of the process like an onion," explains Lawson "Boo" Hayes, CFO of the plant. "You pull an onion out of the ground and it's covered in dirt. You shake it and some of the dirt comes off. You peel a little more off and you get a pearl of an onion. That's basically what we do with the PET here: It comes looking dark and dirty, and we literally etch off the outer layers to remove all impurities." The company processes 100 million pounds of PET bales each year, seven days a week, making the facility one of the global leaders in PET recycling.

In the Mold

Emeco 111 Navy Chair rPET mixture
Each Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron.
By the time the rPET compound reaches the cavernous 270,000-square-foot Bemis Manufacturing facility in the rolling Blue Ridge foothills of North Carolina—a meticulous industrial wonderland humming, both literally and figuratively, with energy—the rPET has already made a trip to BASF in Tennessee, where it is combined with glass fiber and color pigment. Amid hydraulic machines creating components for garden supplies, construction equipment, and school buses, each 111 Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron. Once the mold is loaded, the chair is formed, hollowed out via gas injection, then tempered and cooled. The entire process takes approximately three minutes. Following the initial in-mold cooling, the chair is removed by a robot and presented to a factory worker.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair robotic arm
After the rPET mixture is heated and transformed via injection molding into a chair, a robotic arm removes it from the specially designed mold.

Final Finishes
The worker smooths any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace (created on another mold) as well as the feet.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair design process
A worker smoothes any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace.

This final laying on of hands, labor intensive though it may be, is the hallmark of Emeco's Navy chair legacy. Watching the technician clean the rough points on each chair, one is struck by the hybrid nature of this project, in which 21st-century recycling technology is married to a handmade aesthetic, producing an object both old and new—in more ways than one.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair process
One of the final steps is to install the H-Brace and feet, both fabricated on another mold.

The  111 Navy chairs are exact replicas of the aluminum originals, down to the faux weld points on the backside; Emeco knew that Navy-chair devtees would accept nothing less. "At the Milan Furniture Fair," says Daniel Fogelson, Emeco's vice president of sales and marketing, "the first thing our clients did was turn the chair around and look for those [weld] marks, just to make sure we hadn't screwed it up." And the company hasn't.

Emeco 111 Navy Chair
Each chair is stamped on the underside to read, "Help your bottle become something extraordinary again."

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016